Four hunters, one monster. Sounds like a party…
Turtle Rock, known for their work on the highly enjoyable Left 4 Dead, once again give players the chance to practice the co-op strategies with four different hunters to control. The twist is that the subject of the hunt is a great big monster which can grow even larger and more powerful, and that monster is controlled by another player. The results are epic 4v1 matches that really could go either way.
If it is a story that you want, you may be disappointed. Set in the distant future, a planet colonised by humans is being basically overrun by giant monsters, and the hunters are sent in to remedy the situation. If you want more than that, tough. But in reality, nothing more is needed as an excuse to hunt monstrous scum, or to crush puny humans.
So, the game involves the player taking control of one of four different types of human hunter, or taking control of the monster. Whilst Evolve is a primarily online only game, players can practice their skills against a reasonably capable AI alone, something which is highly advisable as each of the different types of hunter has a specific role to play in the game, and mastering the monsters abilities and evolutions will be key to defeating a human team.
The monster will be dropped into the map ahead of the four hunters, giving them a head start when they are at their weakest. Speaking of the maps, they are suitably big enough to play host to a game in which a giant monster can easily hide for a good amount of time. There are plenty of different maps, and they are reasonably varied.
So, the monster has a head start, a chance to hide themselves away as they grow stronger. Sneaking around the map will leave no footprints for the hunters to follow, but it will also slow the monster down and, at this early point in the game, feeding is perhaps the most important. There is other wildlife inhabiting the maps, some of which can even provide buffs for the monster or the hunters, but killing and eating this other wildlife is essential for the monster player to evolve.
There are three stages of evolution for the monster, and moving out of the first, rather weak stage is a priority. Once reaching the second stage, the monster will be on much more even footing with a capable team of hunters. Of course, if you can make it to stage three, then even the best hunters will have a problem.
There are various different modes in which to play, including ones that involve the protection/destruction of eggs or rescuing/eating other humans. But the most popular mode is Hunt and even the other modes come down to basically the same thing, the hunters and monster facing off against each other.
With the monster given that early advantage, the team of hunters face a race against time as they try to find the monster and engage before it evolves and becomes too powerful. However, catching up with the monster quickly by no means guarantees victory unless the team of hunters understand their roles and are capable of working together.
The Trapper will find themselves weakening the monster or preventing its escape, such as when using the mobile arena trap – a force field which keeps the monster in a given area. The Medic is fairly self explanatory, keeping the other members of the team alive whilst trying to stay out of trouble. The Support hunter will switch between protecting the other hunters and dropping big damage on the target monster. Then you have the Assault hunter who is the best designed to dish out and take damage. All of the hunters have jet-packs which allow them to perform some epic jumps, or speedily dodge in different directions.
Each of the hunters plays very differently and mastering your place in the battlefield will be key to a successful hunt, along with working well with the rest of the team. And this is Evolve’s biggest flaw, a reliance on players working well together to make for an interesting match, both for the hunters and the monster. Relying on match making to put a team together very rarely results in a successful outing, unless the monster player is unlucky or not very good. To get the most from Evolve, players will need to find a regular team with which to work, a team that can master their roles and develop strategies. But committing to regular play sessions with the same people is difficult to accomplish, which means many matches will be unfulfilling or even frustrating.
As the player progresses through matches, they will level up their chosen character or monster, which will in turn lead to the unlocking of other monsters or other hunters. This does add a nice incentive for continuing to play, although players concentrating on leveling up may well neglect certain actions, leading to less than ideal game sessions. However, with the jumble of pre-order incentives and different editions of the game, players may have access to different monsters or hunters, at different times. The build up to Evolve was more than a little confusing, but the different hunters and monsters available all offer variety, and will be available one way or another to those who invest enough in the game to want to play with them.
Evolve is a brilliant concept. Players can hunt a monster, or be the monster. But it is a concept that only works well in the very best of circumstances. A match involving an experienced monster player and a well practiced, co-operating team of hunters can be a beautiful thing. Without this, Evolve can be complete and utter chaos which, whilst still fun initially, can get old quickly.